New bikes of 2011
Go ahead, make my year…
The Bear goes gonzo on the bikes that are hitting the showrooms
just about now
‘You’ve seen them all on the
web, sure – but while the web knows what you need, we know what you want…’
– The Bear, with apologies to Robert Zimmerman
The morning after the opening of the 68th EICMA International Motorcycle and Bicycle Show in Milan, every newspaper in Italy – including the highly respected Corriere della Sera – led with it on its front page. Well, more specifically it led with a comment made by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi during his opening address.
Unfortunately the comment had nothing to do with motorcycles.
A reporter had asked him about his predilection for mixing with underage girls and he more or less replied, sure, but at least I don’t have anything to do with gays.
The crowd, including your humble reporter, was, to put it mildly, somewhat gobsmacked.
Of course Berlusconi actually talked much more about motorcycles than his sexual orientation but that somehow didn’t hit the news. He emphasised the Italian challenge to the international motorbike market: “The attitude for innovation and investment by the Italian industry, despite a difficult economic period caused by the crisis, deserves admiration,” he said. No, that didn’t make it into the TV bulletins.
But of course it’s true, not just for the bikes but also for the show itself. “The new products by the over 1100 brands in the most important motor show in the world stand there to testify it,” EICMA President Corrado Capelli said. We all knew what he meant. Milan is now unquestionably the most important motorcycle show of the year – every year.
But now let’s take a look at what was actually on display. Here is my take on the cream of the new 2011 crop, the bikes that are hitting the shops about now and that you’re just about to go out and buy. I’m not going to be listing technical specifications (we’ll do that in later editions when we ride them) or prices (they’re in the ARR Bike Buyers’ Guide, out about now) or comparing quarter mile times. You’ve almost certainly seen the bare facts about these bikes on the web. This is not so much what they are but the back story.
Please don’t assume that a bike that gets more words is necessarily more important than one that only gets a short sentence or two. All it means is that I had more to say – and some of the most important bikes here (such as, say, Ducati’s upgraded Monster 1100) don’t get much coverage because they speak for themselves. I haven’t listed all the new bikes here, either. Let’s face it, I don’t even have opinions about some of them.
These are my personal opinions and whereas you can get technical specifications off the web, you can only get my biased rantings right here! I’m going to try to tell you a little about what I think these bikes mean and help you to decide whether you might be tempted by one.
Me, I’m tempted by several in this rather good year – as you will probably be able to tell. So here’s the “what” they are, the “why” were they built, the “why” you may be interested in them and “who” the likely buyers may be.
Tuono V4R 1000
What: “From the bike that dominated the World Superbike Championship, Aprilia extracts the fiercest naked ever seen.” But that’s not all, folks. How’s this for electronics being your friend: drop the clutch at 11,000rpm in first on this 162 horsepower special and you will not flip over backwards, as you would reasonably (reasonably?!?) expect.
Instead the electronic launch, wheelie and traction control will simply get you off the line as fast and as smoothly as possible. You can change up on full throttle as well, using the quickshift without the distraction of anything as mundane as a clutch. There are lots more electronics, including several modes for just about everything.
Why: If you have to ask…
Who: Once again, in Aprilia’s words, “the rider who … would use a race bike just to go for a coffee”. If that’s you, your Tuono is ready.
RSV4 Factory APRC Special Edition
What: More like Max Biaggi’s race-winning bike than ever. Detail improvements include everything the Tuono gets such as a lighter exhaust, a complete redesign of the transmission and even the cooling system. Then there’s more, such as a dual display mode for the instruments – race and road.
Why: To celebrate the world championship.
Who: Not you, probably, and certainly not we mere mortals but if you know someone who’s really good and really well-off you may get to touch one of these.
What: It is Italian – now Chinese – manufacturer Benelli’s turn to hit the century mark this year, in March. To celebrate it has come up with this limited edition of the naked three-cylinder 899cc TnT.
Why: If you can find one in Australia – we may or may not have an importer by now – it will be a very rare machine. Limited editions always hold their value well. I also think the 900 engine is the pick of Benelli’s triples.
Who: An experienced rider who truly loves Italian motorcycles but wants something different from the other bikes that collect at the weekend coffee stop and who’s willing to forgive that they’re built in China – which to my mind is no problem at all. I have a Chinese-engined bike (with a BMW badge on the tank) and I’m very happy with the quality.
K 1600 GT/GTL
What: BMW has been after the scalp of the world’s acknowledged top luxury bike tourer, Honda’s GoldWing, for a long time. What’s always stopped it from taking the crown has been the engine. Good as they were, BMW’s horizontally opposed twins and even the in-line fours of the original K Series were simply not in the same class as Honda’s flat fours and then flat sixes.
That may be about to change. The six-cylinder engine of the 2011 BMW K 1600 GT and GTL looks as if it might finally measure up. Weighing 102.6 kilograms, the engine is claimed to be by far the lightest serially produced six-cylinder in-line engine for motorcycles in the class. Not that this is a difficult claim to sustain – it is, as far as I know, the only six cylinder in-line bike engine in production, not just in that class but in any class.
Naturally the bikes offer every techno trick known to man or beast.
Why: The GoldWing is getting on. Manufacturing confusion (at first it was moving to Japan, now it’s staying in the US) probably means that updates will be incremental. These BMWs are brand new, with all the latest equipment, so you’re sure to want one.
Aren’t cha? Mind you, we don’t know yet if they are actually better than the Honda!
Who: Mister Luxury Tourer himself, the man who always has the best. I know you’re out there and I know you read this magazine.
R 1200 R/Classic
What: The return of the Roadster, but now equipped with the “hot” boxer twin engine from the HP2 Sport, which is making its way into the entire 1200 boxer range. Good thing, too, it’s a terrific unit. I’ve sampled it in the GS and loved it. The cooking model gets cast rather than spoked wheels and the more nostalgic Classic has a white go-faster stripe over its metallic sapphire black (black sapphire?) paintwork.
Why: Because a roadster is pretty much essence of motorcycle.
Who: BMW (and other) traditionalists who wish to keep up a little more easily with their compatriots on Japanese bikes.
R 1200 GS ‘Triple Black’
What: A limited edition of the R 1200 GS painted black. Metallic black body panels, black spoked wheels, black swingarm and so on. That’s it.
Why: Because it looks staggeringly cool.
Who: Someone who can’t afford the black helicopter.
G 650 GS
What: It’s baaack… and most welcome, too. BMW tried to kill the plain ol’ single-cylinder GS and replace it with the flash new ones, like my (much-loved) XCountry. That didn’t work. The Americans weren’t fooled by the F 650 GS (which is an 800 twin) and demanded the return of the 650 single. It’s not really new but it’s had a makeover.
Why: Light, willing and very user-friendly, this is almost as much of a dual-purpose icon as big brother 1200. The pleasantly low 780mm seat will help, too. Why the Bavarians thought it was a good idea to kill it in the first place remains a mystery beyond the ken of ordinary mortals.
Who: Keen go-anywhere riders who want to battle the bush with a rapier rather than a cutlass.
What: This is (BMW chief designer) David Robb meets Iron Man. Forget the spindly roofed cuteness of the discontinued C1 (which might yet see the light of day again as an electric scooter) and get ready for some serious scooter aggression. A tough maxi-scooter might seem to be a contradiction in terms and photos don’t really do it justice, but trust me – this is a steroid-pumped mile muncher. It could run anything from a 500cc to a 700cc engine, according to BMW. It’s still just a concept, though it looked pretty production-ready to me, except maybe for the blue and black tattoo-look tyres.
Why: That leaves the question why BMW would want to get into scooters at all and maxis in particular. The reason, I suspect, has more to do with an ageing population that needs convenient urban transport than with the leggy Italian supermodel-lookalike girls in killer heels and short skirts who are so beloved of scooter advertisers. There is quite likely a scooter in your future and BMW wants it to carry the blue and white badge and wants to make some money from it. That’s hard to do with anything less than a maxi.
Who: Anyone who’s ready to shift to someth